How to be a More Welcoming Church – Putting It Together

Sunday we concluded our sermon series on “How to be a More Welcoming Church.” In my sermon I committed to resurrecting this blog and trying to post consistent posts. Each week I hope to post a few thoughts and questions about the sermon, worship, and what we are doing as Christ’s church in Stroudsburg. We have a lot to do!

During my children’s message yesterday, I asked the children a question: “How can we make church more fun?” I received an answer from Crista Kopec who spoke to me after worship in the Fellowship Room. Her answer on how to make church more fun was this: “Have Sunday School in the summer!” Thank you Crista for sharing your idea on how to make church more fun. Now, we the church, must find the way to make this happen! What can we do at Stroudsburg to have Sunday School throughout the summer months? Perhaps we can create a short-term class for all children, or perhaps even an intergenerational class for all ages. I’d like to hear your creative ideas on how we can make this happen. So, if you have some thoughts or are willing to help in this endeavor please let me know.

Sue Weitzmann also offered some creative ideas for us to advertise our church and invite newcomers to worship. Here they are:

“Our bells are ringing once again. They may be calling you! Please come join us at SUMC.”

“Step our of the cold and into the warmth of SUMC! Please join us for fellowship and friendship!”

It always does the pastor’s heart good when worshippers respond with physical evidence and creative ideas as Crista and Sue did this week. What ideas do you have? How can we make church more fun? How can we invite more people to join us? Keep the ideas coming!

I also want to thank Peggy Stewart for bringing the gatorade to worship yesterday! In case you did not hear this, Peggy heard that everyone gets really excited about the Super Bowl each year, but worship should be exciting, too! So, she brought gatorade so if the preacher preached a super duper, uplifting sermon someone could dump gatorade over his head like the football players do with their coaches. Well, my sermon was not worthy of a gatorade dumping yesterday, but the idea was great! How can we make worship more exciting?

My friend and colleague, Rev. Jeff Garrison, posted a link to an article in his “Reflecting the Face of Jesus e-newsletter” about the 10 signals that say “You’re Not Welcome in this Church,” by Joe McKeever. ) The very first signal listed is: “The front door is locked.” Well, the lock in our front door of the sanctuary broke this week and so our front door was locked on Sunday! This is the first time in my time here that we had this problem. It is being fixed now hopefully before we host the Ash Wednesday worship this week.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and I hope you will attend worship as we host our Cluster Wednesday night at 7pm here at SUMC. We also will be changing worship slightly to include some more penitential elements of worship, especially in our prayers. Spoken and silent confession, words of assurance, and The Lord’s Prayer will be used during the season of Lent this year. This is a season to look inward to help grow our faith so the sermon series will be based on spiritual mentors. This coming Sunday we will look at Thomas Merton. He is a pretty well known monk who wrote quite a few books on the topics of contemplation and meditation. I was introduced to his writings when I was in high school. Spiritual mentors are very important of us to grow in our faith and we will explore this topic in the upcoming sermon series.

Have a great week and keep exploring ways so we can be a more welcoming church!

-Bob

The Importance of Vision and Language

Proverbs 29:18a (the “a” just means the first part of the verse) reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

The understanding or interpretation of this verse is simple: if we are not looking and planning ahead we’re gonna die! Make no bones about it, there are plenty of dying churches all around us these days. Why have so many churches become irrelevant to their communities? Why do churches refuse to look and plan ahead?

These are good questions. Sometimes, many times in fact, churches spend far too much time looking inward at themselves rather than looking outward into their communities. Churches are deemed as irrelevant because of this inward thinking. Even how we talk and sing is often foreign to a visitor’s ear. What is a bulletin, or an anthem? What is a pulpit or lectern? What is the Trinity? And how about the Holy Ghost?

If you are an active church member you might use language and terms like these without even thinking about them. But when was the last time you heard a public conversation outside of church about the Holy Ghost? You see, our language is foreign to newcomers and it’s like we are speaking a foreign language to them. Sprechen die Deutusche? Sprechen die church?

We believe God loves everybody but the way we speak does not portray this adequately or clearly. To the outsider, it sounds like we are shrouding the truth and protecting it all for ourselves!

It is imperative that our vision is not focused inwardly. God calls us to reach out to others, just as in the story of The Good Samaritan. Who is our neighbor? What is God asking us to do for our neighbor?

As we live out our vision we need to really pay attention to how we talk. We need to carefully choose the proper words we use to include those who are not churched. We have an important message to share with them… we just need to be extra careful in how we communicate this important message!